A Review of Quiet Talks on Prayer by S.D. Gordon

            Who is S. D. Gordon? That was the thought that first came to mind when being informed of having to use his work. Samuel Dickery Gordon is his full name and he was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania August 12, 1859. He was a plain man that did not have a high scholarly degree, and worked at the YMCA. Throughout his writing career he wrote twenty-five books with the majority of them being part of the “Quiet Talks” series. It is no coincidence his work is called quiet talks, because his style of preaching was not thundering but more devotional and soft. [1]
            In his work Quiet Talks on Prayer Gordon covers a lot of ground about the topic of prayer. By glancing at the table of contents the reader notices that the book has four major sections; The meaning and mission of prayer, hindrances to prayer, how to pray, and Jesus’ habits of prayer. Each section is then broken down into smaller sub-sections. The copy of the work I was able to attain was only 100 pages long.
            Gordon in the first chapter sets the stage by informing the reader of the power that God has given to us when we pray. To stress the importance of prayers he says, “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed. But you can not do more than pray until you have prayed…. We think we can do more where we are through our service: then prayer to give power to service. No—with the blackest underscoring of emphasis, let it be said—NO. We can do no thing of real power until we have done the prayer thing.”[2]
            In the following sections he says that prayer is the only real deciding factor in a spiritual conflict, and that the battle field where it is all taking place in here on earth. In this section he does describe several different forms of prayer; the first being communion, our fellowship with God.[3]The second form is petition for one’s self, and lastly is intercession on the behalf of others.[4]While the first two forms of prayer are primarily for the believer themselves the third has the farthest reach. And according to Gordon “all true rounded prayer will ever have all three elements in it.”[5]
            The next section asks the question does prayer influence God. The next chapter is one that every Christian should want to pay close attention to, hindrances to prayer. “There are three sorts of hindrances to prayer,” Gordon says; “first of all there are things in us that break off connection with God, the source of changing power. Then there are certain things that delay, or diminish the results; that interfere with the full swing of the prayer plan of operations. And then there is the great outside hindrance to be reckoned upon.”[6] He develops each of these hindrances into a section all their own.
            The next chapter is where he lays out the plan of how to pray, which is then broken down into five separate sections. He points out that we must have a relationship with God, and that “the basis of prayer is right relationship with God.”[7]And in the end, “the relationship that underlies prayer has an absorbing purpose. Its controlling purpose is to please Jesus.”[8]
            In the next chapter Gordon lays out what he understands to be faith. Not necessarily faith as it is found in Hebrews, but still faith. Like any true believer Gordon understands that “prayer must be in faith.”[9] In explaining his understanding of faith he believes that is has four characteristics; it is intelligent, obedient, expectant and persistent.[10]
While his work is about prayer he does not neglect the need of the believer to read the Word of God. He tells his reader that, “One must get at least a half hour daily when the mind is fresh. A tired mind does not readily absorb. This should be persisted at until there is a habitual spending of at least that much time daily over the Book, with a spirit of leisure from all else, so it can take in.”[11]Gordon also recommends that as we have prepared ourselves for this time of reading that we do it prayerfully, thoughtfully and obediently.[12]The first two are easy to understand, the third not so much so; in order to read obediently we must be mindful “as the truth appeals to your conscience let it change your habit and life.”[13]
Gordon also touches on another area that every believer has questioned what God’s will is for their life. And in order to learn his will there are three things that determine our ability to find it; they may seem simple but are ultimately essential.[14]The first thing is we have to do is keep in touch with Him, then we must delight in His will, and finally His word must be allowed to discipline my judgment as to Himself and His will.[15]In the last chapter he discusses Jesus’ habits of prayer. He also takes the time to define what a habit is: A habit is an act repeated so often as to be done involuntarily; that is, without a new decision of the mind each time it is done.[16]While Gordon talks about the habits of Jesus’ prayer he actually articulates what we would call a lifestyle of prayer in today’s vernacular; he says, “Jesus prayed. He loved to pray. Sometimes praying was His way of resting. He prayed so much and so often that it became a part of His life. It became to Him like breathing—involuntary.”[17]The rest of the book focuses on fifteen different mentions of Jesus and prayer found in the Gospels.
Critique and Evaluation
This book is not exactly what I was anticipating. There are many things in it that the reader can take away from it and improve their spiritual well being. However, on the other side of that coin, this work in the hands of a new believer could be very dangerous. Not getting past the third page before I found something gave me pause. Gordon has two phrases that I cannot endorse, “God will do as a result of the humblest one here what otherwise He wouldnot do….That is to say our praying makes it possible for God to do what otherwise He could not do.”[18]These statements are the kind that would usually have me put the book/article down and continue no further, because Gordon makes it sound that God is incapable to do certain things without the actions of man. God is so fully in control he can use whatever means he chooses, for instance making a donkey speak (Numbers 22).  Jesus also made the point that if we do not do what God desired he can use inanimate objects, He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
            In his section on prayer the deciding factor in a spirit conflict there was again a comment that makes me question where exactly he is coming from. For instance Gordon says, “There is a pretender prince who was once the rightful prince.”[19]While I know to whom he is referring I do not know where he got his source material in calling him a “once rightful prince.” In the New Testament Satan is referred to as the prince of the air, so there is no argument about him being called a “prince” now, but there is no reference given to support this claim. Gordon says that God needs man for his plan.[20]As has been mentioned before God does not need human input, but He does openly welcome it.
What should be the readers first reaction when they read this line, “The dominion or kingship of this earth so far as given to man, is now not God’s, for He gave it to man.”[21]When reading this one of the first thoughts that came to this author’s mind was that Gordon sounds like in essence he is denying the sovereignty of God and the devil is able to exercise any amount of authority over it without God’s approval. What about when Satan had to approach the throne in Job and ask permission? If he, being Satan is in control then why does he have to ask permission to what he pleases with his own kingdom?
While seems that there has been much negative about the book, Gordon’s statement that, “It seems to be true that the nearer a man gets to God the more keenly conscious he is of a sinful tendency within even while having continual victory.”[22]Gordon says that “the real reason for the delay or failure lies simply in the difference between God’s viewpoint and ours.”[23]We may not fully understand why things are not going the way we want but Romans 8:28 should give us comfort even when things are not going the way we think they ought.
Gordon gives us a foundation for the saying “that behind every good man is a good woman.”  When he says, “Here is what he wanted—a leader! But there were no leaders. And, worse yet, there were no men out of whom leaders might be made, no men of leader-size. And worse yet there were no women of the sort to train and shape a man for leadership…God had to get a woman before He could get a man.”[24]This should be an encouragement to all of the women who read this book that the Lord is using them to elevate the men God has called to leadership.
On page 49 Gordon in speaking about praying concerns three and not two, God, man and Satan.[25]That is not something new, the thing that took me aback was when he says that prayer is “not towards God, but with God against Satan–….the real pitch is not Godward but Satanward.”[26]If our prayer focuses on Satan do we take our eyes off of God? While we focus on Satan how are we enacting the power that lies with God, because as we grow closer to the father we will already diminish the power Satan has in our lives. Then on page 53 he says that our prayers represent God in the spirit realm, but in John 4:24 tells us that he is spirit so. So in knowing that how can we being finite, pretend to represent the infinite God in His realm.
The last thing that caused issue with me was Gordon’s way of referring to God as a mother.[27]His argument is that a father stands for strength, and a mother for all the other sensitive attributes.[28]Gordon makes it seem as though a father is unable to show these same characteristics, and be the perfect model of a father.
Personal Application
While there were many things I found uncomfortable about this work, it will allow me a resource to turn to for the good and the bad. I can use this work to share with other about the battle we face with Satan and how our prayers work against him. It also showed me that while I struggle with neglecting specific times of prayer, which means I need to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer. If nothing else this work has reenergized my heart to want to pray knowing that I cannot do everything on my own. I do however have the ultimate connect to the greatest power source in the world—Jesus Christ who pray to the Father on my behalf.
<!–[if supportFields]> BIBLIOGRAPHY  \l 1033 <![endif]–>Gordon, S.D. Quiet Talks on Prayer.Public Domain, 1904.

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[1]All of this information and more can be found here, http://peterwade.com/articles/gordsd/biogsdg.shtml
[2]S.D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Prayer. (Public Domain, 1904)4.
[3]Ibid., 14.
[4]Ibid., 15.
[5]Ibid., 15.
[6]Ibid., 27.
[7]Ibid., 53.
[8]Ibid., 56.
[9]Ibid., 66.             
[10]Ibid., 66.
[11]Ibid., 70.
[12]Ibid., 70-71.
[13]Ibid., 71.
[14]Ibid., 79.
[15]Ibid., 79.
[16]Ibid., 88.
[17]Ibid., 88.
[18]Ibid., 3.
[19]Ibid., 10.
[20]Ibid., 14.
[21]Ibid., 17.
[22]Ibid., 28.
[23]Ibid., 33.
[24] Ibid., 37.
[25]Ibid., 49.
[26]Ibid., 49.
[27]Ibid., 75.
[28]Ibid., 75.

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